Photo of MaryBeth Wise and Ray Ficca by Danisha Crosby

Photo of MaryBeth Wise and Ray Ficca by Danisha Crosby

East Coast Premiere
By Bill Cain
Directed by Ryan Rilette
April 10 – May 5, 2013

Round House Theatre Bethesda

What’s your family story?

Writers are told to write what they know. But as Bill Cain (Equivocation, 9 Circles) discovers in writing about his family, sometimes those we are closest to are the biggest mysteries of all.

In a heartfelt, humorous  new play taken from Cain’s own experiences, a writer named Bill moves in with his often-maddening (but always funny) mother when she becomes too frail to care for herself. Their reunion heals old wounds, opening a  new chapter in their relationship. Over the course of the play, Bill tells the family story in a series of evocative flashbacks. The memories are both bitter and sweet, for this is a family with its own set of commandments. This engaging family portrait gives a fascinating look at why the details of our lives and loves matter.

“A moving ode to family life…Rilette could not have found a much more amiable foursome to portray Bill and his clan.” – Washington Post

“Powerful and moving…a funny, poignant tribute to the quirks and affectionate moments that make each family unique.” ‑ Washingtonian

“Five stars…tears and laughter [in] an evening of deeply affecting theatre…Director Ryan Rilette has a lot to celebrate with this fantastic production…a dynamite team of actors…not to be missed.” – DC Metro Theater Arts

“The perfect stillness of recognition blankets the audience more than once, and a sniffle may be inevitable” – Washington Post

“Emotionally resonant…a universally strong cast…powerful and thought-provoking” – Broadway World

“Great…Do not miss this stirring work” – Baltimore Post-Examiner

“The universal themes shine through and can often leave you breathless, in tears, or both…well worth seeing” – MD Theatre Guide

Sponsored in part through generous support from Esthy & Jim Adler and Judy & Leo Zickler

How to Write a New Book for the Bible, which [playwright Bill] Cain casually refers to as ‘the Mom and Dad play,’ is largely autobiographical…The title is born of his personal philosophy that religion is an integral part of everyday life. ‘The Bible is not a rulebook,’ Cain suggests. ‘The Bible is the story of a family. And if there was the revelation of the divine in Abraham and Sarah, there’s the revelation of the family in everyone’s parents and everyone’s children. The thesis of the play is that every hundred years every family ought to add a new book to the Bible, to look back on their experience, to recognize the darkness and claim the luminous. Religion doesn’t belong to the people who are trying to make it a rulebook about sexual behavior. It’s much bigger than that. It’s about the innate revelation that exists in every family.’” – from  The Unequivocal Bill Cain by Margot Melcon, the October 2011 issue of American Theatre

No events found for production ID 4421.

From discussions with directors, designers, and actors to childcare matinees and audio-described and sign-interpreted performances, each production features fun and informative audience events. For further info, call our box office at 240.644.1100.

Designer Discussion

Gain an inside look at the show’s costume, set lighting, and sound designs from the professionals who make it happen.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 6:45 p.m.

Director Discussion

Get up close with director Ryan Rilette in this pre-performance talk.
Friday, April 12, 2013 at 7:15 p.m.

Post-Show Talkbacks

Stay afterwards for a lively discussion with members of the cast and special guests.
April 10 thru 14, April 21 and 28, 2013

Accessibility

RHT offers designated audio-described and sign-interpreted performances of each Bethesda production. More info about those performances may be found below.

Using the services of Maryland Relay, patrons who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, DeafBlind or Speech Disabled can easily communicate through TTY (text telephone) with the Round House box office about performances in our Bethesda and/or Silver Spring theatres. For more information about using Maryland Relay’s TTY service, visit http://www.mdrelay.org/.

Audio-described performance

Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 3 p.m.

Sign-interpreted performance

Reservations for sign interpreting services must be made at least 2 weeks prior to the performance.
Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 3 p.m.

CAST

Mary: MaryBeth Wise
Bill: Ray Ficca
Paul: Danny Gavigan
Pete: Mitchell Hébert

ARTISTIC TEAM

Director: Ryan Rilette
Scenic Designer:  Daniel Conway
Costume Designer:  Rosemary Pardee
Lighting Designer:  Colin K. Bills
Sound Designer:  Eric Shimelonis
Props Designer:  Andrea Moore
Movement Coach: Mark Jaster
Stage Manager:  Erin C. Patrick

Ryan Rilette on New Book: a show of firsts

Actor Ray Ficca, playwright Bill Cain, and director Ryan Rilette during a rehearsal for New Book.

Actor Ray Ficca, playwright Bill Cain, and director Ryan Rilette during a rehearsal for New Book.

This is a show of firsts. It’s the first play that I picked for Round House, the first time we’ve produced Bill Cain here, the first show I’ve directed here, and the first time I’ve had the chance to direct one of Bill’s plays. While at Marin Theatre Company, I produced two of Bill’s plays: Equivocation and the world premiere of 9 Circles, which also won our Sky Cooper New American Play Prize. Bill quickly became a fixture around MTC, a big part of our family, so I’m thrilled for him to be the first playwright that I’m introducing to my new Round House family.

Family is at the heart of How to Write a New Book for the Bible. Like many great American playwrights, Bill has written about his own family in this play. But what makes this play unique is that Bill hasn’t fictionalized his family – he hasn’t hidden them behind a thin veil, like O’Neill does with the Tyrone family. Instead, in New Book, you meet a lead character named Bill Cain. You learn Cain family secrets, watch Cain family arguments, and ultimately, experience Cain family loss. This is truly an autobiographical play.

Bill has done this for a very specific reason – he’s leading you by example. He’s showing you how he looked back at his own family, how he explored their lives, and the revelations that resulted from doing so. Ultimately, this play asks you to do the same. It asks you to take a deep look at your own family, at your own life.

The title of this play comes from Bill’s unique perspective as a Jesuit. Bill is many things – an award-winning playwright, screenwriter and television writer; a director and Artistic Director; and a teacher. He is also a priest. As he says in the play, that’s not something he normally tells people right away, but in this play, he had to because it’s his outlook as a priest, specifically a Jesuit priest, which informs his view of his family.

Jesuits believe that God can be found in all things. You find God by exploring your life, by paying attention, by being “contemplative in action.” One famous definition of Jesuit prayer is that it is “a long, loving look at the real.” Over lunch one day in New York, while discussing this, Bill gave me another great description that comes directly from theater – one that I’m sure you’re familiar with: “Attention must be paid.”

Bill reminds us in this play to pay attention to our own family, to our own lives. In an American Theatre article written about him just before the premiere of New Book, Bill says that “If there was the revelation of the divine in Abraham and Sarah, there’s the revelation of the family in everyone’s parents and everyone’s children. The thesis of this play is that every hundred years every family ought to add a new book to the Bible, to look back on their experiences, to recognize the darkness and claim the luminous.”

That’s our invitation to you. Whether you’re Jewish or Muslim or Catholic, an agnostic or an atheist, this invitation still applies. You don’t need to believe in God to explore your own lives, but if you do, you just might find the presence of the divine.

-Ryan Rilette

Ryan Rilette is Round House’s Producing Artistic Director and the director of How to Write a New Book for the Bible.

How to Write a New Book for the Bible is onstage at Round House Bethesda from April 10 thru May 5. The production stars Ray Ficca, Danny Gavigan, Mitchell Hébert, & MaryBeth Wise.